May 22, 2014

Thank You Notes

Does your church have a theology of gratitude? Is this “attitude of gratitude” more platitude than practice?

The state of Kentucky held its primary election on Tuesday. Signs in patriotic blues and reds littered most street corners. Pamphlets were tucked under windshield wipers and into front-door handles. Our home phone got some action in a mostly cell-phone world.

On Wednesday I noticed a curious sight. A few of the people who had been elected added a note to their signs: “Thank you.” These notes weren’t highly branded in fonts that focus groups said would evoke confidence in the candidate. Rather, they were handwritten, some in all caps, on slices of white poster board and duct taped to the original sign. 

And even though this might be contrived too, and perhaps I’m a Pollyanna in the world of politics, seeing those homemade thank you signs made me feel good, like the candidates meant it. Like they were truly grateful.

Though it risks the separation of church and state, perhaps there’s a lesson to be learned for our congregations. How often do we say thank you? And in what ways? And to which people?
I think we’re pretty good at thanking Sunday School teachers at the end of the year. We reward a teen soloist with applause and mention the hard work of a committee chair in our newsletters.

But I wonder how often we handwrite a note of thanks to the choir director for amazing leadership, not only in directing the choirs but in modeling respect for the liturgy and what it means to work as a team? What about the older woman in the congregation who never meets a stranger, who is the first to greet newcomers, to put a friendly arm on a shoulder, to give up her seat for visitors? Do we write a thank you note to the priest, not because he or she celebrated a wedding or presided at the funeral, but because the bible study has helped deepen your relationship with God, has encouraged you to ask questions and seek the Spirit? Do we jot a note to the acolyte whose smile and faithful service brightens worship?

In my mother’s church, they have a card ministry, with get well and thinking of you cards in the pew racks. Folks can write a note to someone on the prayer list or a friend they’ve missed seeing on Sundays. It might be nice to add thank you cards to the mix. Being appreciated—and being the one who appreciates—can be a gift beyond compare.